9 years

A study that might light a fire under you, post-pandemic. Or maybe you're already doing it. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

As we reach the end of the pandemic (I think/hope), and as people are returning to normal lives (again, I think/hope), I’d like to share a study that suggests a way—maybe—to get some of that lost time back.

Because, it’s been a dream of civilizations since the dawn of time: If we can't live forever, can we at least slow down the aging process, and stretch our lives out as long as possible?

Researchers from Brigham Young University say … maybe.

And to cut right to the chase, the key is exercise: a certain type of exercise that, the researchers say they believe, can slow the aging process within our cells, lead to better health and physical conditioning, and theoretically match the natural age progression of a significantly younger person—as many as nine years younger.

I'm the first to be skeptical about such a claim (not that exercise leads to better health of course, but the “nine years” part). So, let's dive right in.

The BYU researchers, led by a professor of exercise science named Larry Tucker, studied 5,823 adults who had previously participated in a CDC project called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

This survey kept track of the participants' daily physical activity, specifically the degree to which they engaged in 62 types of exercise over a 30-day period.

The study also measured something called "telomere length values." These are the “nucleotide endcaps of our chromosomes," as a BYU press release explained it, continuing:

They're like our biological clock, and they're extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the end caps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres.

By poring through the data in the federal CDC study, BYU's Tucker claims that he was able to correlate people's relative telomere length with their various levels of physical activity.

And, he found a correlation. If you think of people's levels of physical activity as being in four categories—sedentary, low, moderate, and high—Tucker found that people in the first three categories had roughly similar telomere lengths.

But for that last category, the people who engaged in high levels of physical activity had "140 base pairs of DNA [more] at the end of their telomeres" than everyone else.

According to Tucker's paper, which was published in the journal Preventive Medicine, that results in a "biologic aging advantage of nine years."

To put this plainly: Engage in “high levels of physical activity,” and your cells are more likely to resemble the cells of a considerably younger person. "High levels of physical activity" were defined, for our purposes, to mean five days a week of:

  • 30 minutes of jogging each day for women, or

  • 40 minutes of jogging each day for men.

That's a commitment, but not one that’s beyond the abilities of many people.

"Just because you're 40, doesn't mean you're 40 years old biologically," Tucker said in a press release. "We all know people that seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies."

Bit of a post-script: I admit I have fallen off the exercise wagon over the past 12+ months; it’s tough getting back on. But, for motivation, I’m glad I came across this study again. No time like the present to plan for the future. Anyone else feel that way?

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7 other things worth your time

  • One more Amazon thing after yesterday: They bought MGM for $8.5 billion. (Reuters)

  • The Roman Catholic bishop of Oakland, Calif. was robbed at gunpoint; talked about it in a homily. (CBS Local)

  • John Steinbeck wrote at least three novels which were never published. He destroyed two of them himself, but the third, a full-length mystery werewolf story entitled Murder at Full Moon, has survived unseen in an archive ever since being rejected for publication in 1930. Now a British academic is calling for the Steinbeck estate to finally allow the publication of the work. (The Guardian)

  • Half of Canadians surveyed say they want the border with the U.S. to remain closed due to Covid-19, and more than 75 percent say they support the idea of a “vaccine passport.” (Financial Post)

  • “The new American status symbol: a backyard that’s basically a fancy living room. … There’s this paradigm shift of thinking of the outdoors as a place to be all year round.” (WashPost via MSN)

  • Eric Carle, the children’s author who wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has died at the age of 91.

  • Finally, I haven’t had one like this in a while: Just two bees working together to open a bottle of orange soda.

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Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. A version of part of this newsletter previously ran on Inc.com. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here

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